Many intelligent people think that they rarely use their educations. This may be true in many fields as far as specific material goes. However, if these same people tried to function without the hard-won habits of thinking precisely about abstract ideas, of paying attention to detail even in long, uninteresting tasks, and of reading and listening carefully to presentations and instructions, they might not take their educations for granted. Even the essential habit of being on time is hard won for many (including me).

I teach students every day who were not required to develop these skills in their elementary and secondary educations, and the result is not pretty. Innovation, or even routine technical work, is very difficult without this foundation.

Of course I realize that many of the future engineers that I teach will not use the techniques that I require them to know (partly because employers no longer trust them to have the skills above). I imagine that gymnastics coaches realize that few of their athletes have a practical need to dance on narrow beams or flip around parallel bars. But the enhanced coordination and confidence developed in the one case, and the precise thought and careful observation developed in the other are an obvious benefit to the student.

Take note of the people from other cultures who are successful in the technical world, they mostly were educated under strong forms of this regimented, restricting Prussian system. Talented and brilliant people are better able to develop these skills on their own.


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